Six Romances, Op. 16
Scored for high voice (Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6), or low voice (No. 3), with piano accompaniment.
Movements and Duration
- Cradle Song (Колыбельная песня)
Andantino (A-flat minor, 90 bars).
- Wait! (Погоди!)
Moderato assai (A minor–A major, 55 bars).
- Accept Just Once (Пойми хоть раз)
Allegro non tanto (C minor, 36 bars).
- O, Sing That Song (О, спой же ту песню)
Allegro moderato (G major, 127 bars).
- So What? (Так что же?)
Allegretto (F-sharp minor, 164 bars).
- Modern Greek Song (Новогреческая песня) 
Moderato lugubre (E-flat minor, 48 bars).
1. Apollon Maykov (1821–1897), from his poem of the same name in the cycle Modern Greek Songs (Новогречиские песни) (1860):
Спи, дитя моё, спи, усни! спи, усни!
2. Nikolay Grekov (1807–1866), from an untitled poem (by 1860):
Погоди! Для чего торопиться!
Пойми хоть раз тоскливое признанье,
4. Aleksey Pleshcheyev (1825–1893), from his poem On a Motif of Felicia Hemans (На мотив из Фелиции Гименс) (1871) — a translation from the English of the poem Mother! Oh Sing me to Rest (1830) by Felicia Hemans (1793–1835):
О, спой же ту песню, родная,
5. "N.N." [= Tchaikovsky]:
Твой образ светлый, ангельский
6. Apollon Maykov, from an untitled poem in his cycle Modern Greek Songs (Новогречиские песни) (1858–60):
В тёмном аде, под землёй
The texts of the poems Wait (No. 2) and O, Sing that Song (No. 4) were abridged by Tchaikovsky; he also made changes to the texts of all the romances.
The romances were composed by Tchaikovsky in Moscow, apparently soon after finishing work on his Second Symphony. On 2/14 November 1872 he wrote that: "... the symphony, which I'm finishing off, has engrossed me so deeply that I'm not able to do anything else" . By 15/27 November the symphony was ready and copied out . In letters to his father of 22 November/4 December and 9/21 December, Tchaikovsky reported that he was going to relax after completing his symphony. and not write anything further . But on 10/22 December he told Modest Tchaikovsky: "Now I am forced to rest by the absence of any inspiration or inclination to compose; I did try to write some romances, but somehow they all came out badly, and I couldn't find words that I liked. If you aren't particularly busy, could you send me a list of suitable verses? I've filled a whole ream of paper with verses, but they are all so terrible that not one of them is suitable to set to music" . It seems that in December, not having found an appropriate text, Tchaikovsky wrote the words himself for the romance So What? (No. 5).
Modest Tchaikovsky understood that the Op. 16 romances were written in December 1872 . This information is contained in a letter from Tchaikovsky to Vasily Bessel concerning the publication of the pieces: "During his stay in Saint Petersburg [in December 1872] Tchaikovsky often met with... members of the so-called "mighty-handful"... One evening at Rimsky-Korsakov's , Pyotr Ilyich played his new symphony on the piano, precipitating an enthusiastic response from all those present... Tchaikovsky then presented Bessel with his latest Six Romances, Op. 16, for publication. which had only just been composed" .
The author's opinion that the romance So What? (No. 5) was the best of the Op. 16 set is borne out in a letter to Vasily Bessel of 21 February/5 March 1873: "I recommended ... one of my new romances to Madame Raab, namely So What?" .
The romances O, Sing that Song (No. 4) and So What? (No. 5) were performed, seemingly for the first time, in December 1874 – the first by Aleksandra Krutikova, and the second by Mariya Kamenskaya .
Tchaikovsky arranged three of the romances for solo piano (ČW 343-345), which were published with French titles:
- 1. Berceuse (Колыбельная песня)
- Andantino (A-flat minor, 61 bars) — 1st version
Andantino (A minor, 61 bars) — 2nd version
- Andantino (A-flat minor, 61 bars) — 1st version
- 4. Oh! chante encore (О, спой же ту песню)
- Allegro moderato (G major, 125 bars)
- 5. Qu'importe? (Так что же?)
- Allegretto (F-sharp minor, 164 bars).
No information survives regarding the date of these arrangements, which were probably commissioned by Vasily Bessel. Tchaikovsky made two versions of the arrangement of Cradle Song (No 1)—in A-flat minor (the original key), and a simplified version in A minor.
The Six Romances were published for the first time by Vasily Bessel in March 1873, along with the composer's piano arrangements of Nos. 1, 4 and 5 . In letters of 4/16 March and 7/19 March 1873, Tchaikovsky wrote to Bessel: "I have only just received my romances and hurried to drop you this note to urge you to sequestrate them, i.e. to withdraw all copies of these romances, since they contain some appalling printing errors. I hurriedly checked through them and saw several musical mistakes, and one literary error, sufficient in itself to spoil the whole work. Indeed in the best romance (in my opinion), No. 5, on page 4 in place of the word korish (кориш) [you find fault] the word kutish (кутиш) [you get drunk] has been printed instead, which made me shudder. I implore you at once to gather together all copies and thoroughly examine the proofs, which if you want, I will do myself... The point is that I really expected No. 5 to be a success, but the word kutish has ruined any chance of that" .
The Six Romances, Op. 16, were published in volume 44 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1940), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin. The composer's piano arrangements of Nos. 1, 4 and 5 were published in volume 51Б of the same edition (1946), edited by Ivan Shishov. The arrangement of No. 4 for violin and piano was not included in the Complete Collected Works.
Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores of all six romances are now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 131) [view]. The same archive also holds the autograph of Tchaikovsky's arrangement of No. 5 for solo piano (ф. 88, No. 132) [view].
- See: Discography
Each of the Op. 16 romances is dedicated to a different person: Cradle Song (No. 1) to Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova; Wait (No. 2) to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov; Accept Just Once (No. 3) to Herman Laroche; O, Sing that Song (No. 4) to Nikolay Hubert; So What? (No. 5) to Nikolay Rubinstein; Modern Greek Song (No. 6) to Karl Albrecht.
- Internet Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) — downloadable scores
Notes and References
- On the title page of the autograph this romance is called In Dark Hell (В темном аде).
- On the autograph and many of the printed editions the words are mistakenly attributed to Apollon Maykov.
- Letter 275 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 2/14 November 1872.
- See Letter 276 to Ivan Klimenko, 15/27 November 1872.
- Letter 277, 22 November/2 December 1872, and Letter 279, 9/21 December 1872, both to Ilya Tchaikovsky.
- Letter 280 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22 December 1872.
- (1900), p. 415.
- This was 20 December 1872/1 January 1873 – see letter from Vladimir Stasov to Tchaikovsky, 30 December 1872/11 January 1873 — copy in Klin House-Museum Archive.
- See Letter 284, 2/14 January 1873; Letter 290, 21 February/5 March 1873; and Letter 1386, 21 December 1879/2 January 1880, all to Vasily Bessel.
- Letter 290 to Vasily Bessel, 21 February/5 March 1873.
- See Музыкальный листок (22 December 1874).
- See ČW 344b, and (1958), p. 438.
- Passed by the censor on 17 January 1873.
- Letter 292, 4/16 March 1873, and Letter 293, 7/19 March 1873, to Vasily Bessel.
- Letter 296 to Vasily Bessel, 25 March/6 April 1873.